Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers’ Viewpoint

Revolution Mills – Workers Determined to Organize a Fighting Rank and File Union!

Workers Defend WVO – Reject Bankrupt RCP

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 2, No. 4, May 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On April 3, over 180 workers mostly from Cone Mills Revolution plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, held a spirited meeting to kick off a union drive at this plant. The same fighting spirit which has characterized the heroic struggle of the J.P. Stevens workers at Roanoke Rapids 130 miles from here is spreading throughout the textile industry and was clearly expressed by the militancy and determination of the workers at Revolution. Workers from the White Oak and Granite Plants, both part of Cone’s concentration of plants in this area, declared their full support for the drive for a fighting union. Enthusiasm was running high as workers from Revolution and other mills gave speeches depicting the conditions in the mills, the history of struggle at Revolution and the road forward for a fighting rank and file union of all textile and clothing workers.

This union drive marks the fourth attempt in the last 25 years by workers at Revolution to organize their plant. All of the previous struggles were met by ruthless tactics of the company to keep these mills unorganized. The last drive in 1973 was betrayed by the trade union mis-leadership as officials of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU)[1] actually passed out pictures of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson with pro-labor statements, as the way to get the workers to vote for the union. The workers at Revolution are absolutely clear on the kind of union they are trying to build – a fighting rank and file union.

Cone Mills is the fourth largest cotton manufacturing company in the industry with over 431 of its productive capabilities in the Greensboro area. Although Greensboro is not a classical mill town, Cone Mills is the largest single employer and has tremendous influence within the local bourgeoisie. The previous mayor is a corporate lawyer for Cone and several of the current city councilmen are in the pay of Cone. This influence is clearly expressed in the frequent anti-union slander of the local bourgeois press.

In the past, the company has used mainly repressive tactics to keep the workers unorganized, including setting up machine guns on top of the mill during the great 1934 General Textile Strike, when over 420,000 textile workers from the Black Belt South and New England area went on a 3 week strike. And more recently, in 1973, they closed down whole departments at a time to tell the workers that the mill-would close down if a union came into the plant. But the workers have made it clear that this drive will lead to a strong fighting union in the mill! The rank and file workers are clearly in charge of this union drive!


Conditions in Southern textiles are among the most oppressive and exploitative for workers anywhere in the country. Textile workers make an average of $1.40 an hour less than other industrial workers. This forces many textile workers to work long hours of overtime, others to take second full time jobs, and others to continue doing small-scale farming in order to feed their families. Most workers receive no sick pay, little or no health benefits, and little or no retirement benefits. All of these conditions are even worse for Afro-American textile workers who, due to national oppression, up until as recently as 10 years ago, couldn’t even get jobs in the mills, and now are locked into the worst and lowest paying jobs. Health and safety conditions in the mills are atrocious, with machinery, exposed gears and rollers, often causing our class brothers and sisters to lose fingers, hands and arms. Fire hazards exist everywhere.

The greatest threat to the lives of mill workers is the cotton dust which after 5-8 years of work in the plant leads to the Brown Lung disease. The doctors of the capitalists won’t even recognize that this disease exists so textile workers can’t even collect workmen’s compensation. It is these and other conditions which are leading the workers to take up a resolute struggle against the textile capitalists.


Many of the workers at this first meeting have been involved in 4 other union drives at this plant, and they said that the start of this one was the most spirited and the most strongly supported ever. Even older white workers in the plant who have been more susceptible to the company’s chauvinist propaganda, who have been the strongest source of opposition to unions before, are coming out in support of this drive.

Recently an older worker at the plant several months after retiring died of Brown Lung and heart trouble due to his life of work at the mill. A supervisor went around his department cynically telling older workers how “it seems people don’t live too long after they retire from here.” These workers are realizing how Brown Lung plus a pension plan that is impossible to live on (a retired worker with Brown Lung who leads the local chapter of the Brown Lung Association receives $16.40 a month from the company!) is what awaits them after having given up their lives working to make these parasites rich. One older white worker who had opposed all previous union drives at the plant (he has been in the plant since the early 1930’s) said how he wants to do all he can to have the union in the plant before he retires!

Textile workers in the Black Belt South have been struggling for their unions for almost a hundred years, since the very beginnings of the industry in this area. The capitalists have used all the weapons at their disposal, many of these being linked to the oppressed Afro-American nation in the Black Belt South, to keep textile workers disorganized and weak. They have used Jim Crowism and segregation to keep white workers divided from Afro-American workers, and to keep the working class movement divided from the movement of Afro-Americans for self-determination. They have used Klan terror, the national guard, armed goons, and federal troops to attack striking workers. Often workers responded by arming themselves and taking on the capitalists militarily. The capitalists have used the power they had over workers in the mill towns by evicting striking workers, closing the company store to them, and having paid preachers preach sermons about how the union was the “devil” and how the workers should be “Thankful” to the capitalists for their jobs. But while our class brothers and sisters in textiles have fought heroically and with determination, they have been without the correct leadership which could lead these struggles to victory.


The struggles against the capitalists and the companies aren’t the only struggles textile workers are having to take up. The misleaders in the main union of textile workers, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU), also represent a major barrier to the organization of the unorganized textile workers. These misleaders have refused so far to take up the drive of workers at Revolution. Earlier, before the drive opened up, the misleaders told workers at Revolution that they didn’t think that the Revolution Organizing Committee, the ROC, had enough support for the ACTWU to take up the drive. The very next day, 20 workers from the mill marched into the union office demanding an explanation. After this, it looked as if the misleaders would take up the drive, but again they fudged, never really giving the workers an explanation for why they wouldn’t take up the drive. The only reason they have given us is that the way the ROC is building the drive (a militant fighting drive controlled by the rank-and-file) is “not the way we do things,” and that they see building a “peaceful union.” But the workers at Revolution are determined to be recognized by the ACTWU, because the workers see that their struggle is not just a struggle at one plant, but that the immediate struggle is to organize the entire industry. The ROC is determined not to let the misleaders in the ACTWU weaken us textile workers by splitting us up into different unions. The unions belong to the working class, not to the misleaders, and we will take them back and turn them into fighting organizations of the working class!

Already in the first week of struggle, workers at two other locals of the ACTWU who work for the same company, have come out in full support of the drive at Revolution and in support of the struggle to have the ACTWU officials take up the drive. These locals made speeches during the meeting, with the president of one of the locals exposing how the local union misleader had negotiated a wage cut without their approval several years ago! They talked about the attempts to build their locals into fighting units that stand up for the workers, how they need to use any and all means necessary in the struggle against the companies, which the misleaders have opposed at every turn. They said how the struggle of Revolution workers was a sign of what was to come, and united with the view of the ROC that this isn’t a struggle of just one plant but of textile workers in the entire industry!

The wavering and hesitation, the constant reliance on the capitalists and their state by the union misleaders, have held back and betrayed these struggles. We can see this concretely again today with the role these misleaders are playing in taking up the struggle to organize textile workers, in general, and the workers at Revolution, in particular. In the local papers we regularly read front-page articles about how these misleaders are waging a campaign to unionize the South. But here we have a concrete struggle of textile workers to organize a union, and what are the misleaders doing? Nothing!


The workers are still determined, willing and ready to fight their oppression. But this time around the difference will be that genuine communist leadership is stepping forth which will be able to lead this struggle to victory! The Workers Viewpoint Organization, the basis for the genuine, vanguard political Party of the US working class, has stepped forth giving this struggle correct leadership.

One of the speeches at the meeting was given by a communist member of the ROC who follows the leadership of the Workers Viewpoint Organization. This speech laid out how on all questions there are two outlooks, the outlook of the working class and the outlook of the capitalists, and how communists represent the concentrated expression of the outlook of the working class. The speech also laid out the communist view of unions, the basic organization of the working class in its resistance against capitalist exploitation. Finally it laid out our task in this struggle to build a militant, rank-and-file union of all workers in textiles.

During the meeting, one worker raised a concern about how open communists would hurt the union drive. This was a backward view. In fact this worker was, consciously or not, spreading the slander and distortions of the capitalist class about how communists “brain wash” people, and other bad things. This incorrect view was exposed by the workers themselves who have learned through their own experience how the correct leadership of the Workers Viewpoint Organization, unlike the mis- leadership of the union officials or of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), has been moving this struggle forward. This worker raised the need for a “union” even though it would be a union that did nothing for the workers. The majority of the workers rejected this backward view.

The other workers were clear that “a peaceful, love our capitalist bosses, union without communist leadership” is not the kind of union that they are willing to sacrifice for nor to put their jobs and themselves on the line to build. This worker then said that maybe we wouldn’t have all these problems (like with the union officials) if there weren’t communists involved, but then another worker jumped up and shouted “Yeah, but look what happened the last four union drives without the communists!” This was followed by enthusiastic clapping from others at the meeting.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the founders of the international communist movement, clearly explained in 1848 what relation communists have to the struggles of the working class. They wrote:

In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement.
The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1) In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2) In the various stages of development that the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.
The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of the march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.
The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat. (Communist Manifesto)

Through the work of the Workers Viewpoint Organization, this is what the textile workers at Revolution Plant are beginning to understand about communists.


In organizing the Revolution textile workers, we have had to expose the thoroughly opportunist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) who is peddling its bankrupt line of demoralization, pessimism, and blind practice. The cowardly RCP struggled unsuccessfully against the workers organizing a union drive. Taking the stand of the petty bourgeoisie and always stressing how strong the company is and how weak the workers are, the RCP said we were too weak to start an organized drive for a fighting union. They said we should sneak around and secretly put up stickers in the bathrooms and other places in the plant telling the workers to organize. When asked, “Organize what?” they said, “Just organize!”

The RCP’s position is that once enough action is stirred up, then we can tell the workers that they need a union. This foolish idea belittles the workers’ consciousness and was immediately and overwhelmingly rejected. The RCP’s backwardness continues to express itself as they now try to blow up any struggle in a particular department with total disregard for how this struggle can best serve the overall movement to organize the plant and the industry, win the advanced workers to communism, and rally the middle.

The incredibly narrow scope of the RCP has them constantly tailing behind the workers. The workers having totally rejected the RCP’s version of how to get started, are now actively taking up the struggle to organize the whole industry while the RCP can see no further than one struggle in one department of the plant and in fact have split the unity among the workers by pitting the struggle in one department against the overall drive to organize the union. The RCP has no faith in the workers and even spread anti-communist ideas. In fact they never even put forth that they are communist, let alone put forth communist politics! When workers ask them if they are communist, they reply, “I believ in some of it” or “No, but I’m sort of Socialist.” But the line of the RCP has been exposed as the workers have rejected wholesale the backward line of these opportunists. The correct line and leadership of the WVO has left them scurrying around giving away their newspaper and appealing to the most backward instincts of the workers, but being increasingly seen for what they are – opportunists.


The fusion of the working class movement and the revolutionary working class science of revolution, Marxism-Leninism-Mao tse-Tung Thought, is growing deeper and deeper each day under the leadership of the Workers Viewpoint Organization. And it is this powerful combination which will lead not only to the organization of the textile workers into a powerful rank-and-file union, but will also lead to the powerful revolutionary movement of the working class, backed up by the movements of the oppressed nationalities and national minorities (like the movements of the Afro-Americans, Native Americans, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Asian-American peoples). It is this revolutionary movement of the working class which will put an end to the criminal rule of the US monopoly capitalist class, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, build socialism, and carry the revolution through to the noblest goal in all of history, communism!

Fellow textile workers! Take up the struggle for our union! Take up the struggle for a fighting and militant rank-file union which will unite all textile and clothing workers, that will be able to resist the exploitation and oppression of the capitalist parasites! Take up the struggle in support of the Revolution workers for just this kind of union!


[1] In 1973, the local union here was the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA). This union has since merged with the Amalgamated Clothing Union to form the ACTWU.